BOULDER, Colo. (CBS4)– The founder of PopSockets in Boulder is taking on some of the most powerful tech companies in the world. David Barnett is among four small business executives who went before a Congressional subcommittee and accused Amazon, Google, Apple and Facebook of violating antitrust laws.
“It’s a language of one party being in power over another party that’s powerless,” said Barnett.
The antitrust subcommittee held it’s hearing at the University of Colorado law school at the request of Colorado Congressman Joe Neguse, who is Vice-Chair of the committee. Neguse said Colorado is a hub of entrepreneurship and innovation and that is what’s at stake.
Barnett told the committee that Amazon is a bully that changes the terms of contracts at will and strong arms businesses that sell on it’s platform, “So an eBAY seller goes up at $6, Amazon wants to sell it at $6 then. They drop the price from $10 to $6 and then they come back to us and say, ‘Give us some money because we can’t lose that margin.’”
He said Amazon also sourced and sold counterfeit products, listing them right beside his, and when he decided to leave the platform, the company threatened and retaliated. He returned to the platform a month ago after seeing his profits drop by $10 million in one year.
Google, he says, is no better, “So you go on Google and you type in PopSockets, what would you expect to come up in your search… PopSockets. That seems reasonable, right? If we don’t pay $2 million, that’s not what happens.”
Other small business executives told similar stories. One of them said that competing in today’s marketplace is like playing a sport where the other team owns the field, the stadium and the league and can change the rules at any time. All of them insisted Amazon, Apple, Google and Facebook are monopolies that engage in extortion, threats and retaliation; and in some cases, they say, steal not only their ideas but their customer base. Barnett said it’s time Congress took action.
Neguse agrees, “We’ve been silent for quite some time, the Congress historically, in anti-trust. And I think there’s a real opportunity for us to step in and to protect consumers in a substantive way.”
Congressmen Ed Perlmutter and Ken Buck also want action and if the Justice Department and regulatory agencies don’t step in, they will as public officials and Buck said as a private citizen, “I changed my buying habits. I have to tell you that I’m not going on big platforms without looking at all the other alternatives.”
Neguse said Democrats and Republicans on the committee plan to introduce legislation in the next few months that could deal with everything from more regulations to penalties to breaking-up the companies.
“We don’t have time to waste. I think Congress needs to act in an expeditious way,” said Neguse.
The committee plans to hear from the heads of the four powerhouses next. Colorado’s Attorney General Phil Weiser is also putting more resources toward antitrust cases.